Photo Essay – The Ghosts of Coney Island

by Leighkaren Labay

I was wondering if I would have any trouble finding a parking spot due to all the snow, but the minute I turned onto Ocean Avenue, I saw it would be easy. The street showed no signs of life. I pulled my car up in front of Nathan’s and went in. I needed a hot dog for sustenance. Even though the streets were empty and covered in snow, I was happy to be at Coney Island. This was the place my family had been going to as a summer hotspot for three generations. It was a part of my heritage. And it was totally deserted on this cold, winter’s day.

To me, one of the saddest things is an amusement park in the winter time. There is a particular brand of melancholy that I associate with it. It’s like ghosts are all around, the gloomy ghosts left behind when summer went away and all the people went home. Lonely, but sadly beautiful.

The pictures that this essay accompanies were taken on one of the coldest days of last winter. There were, surprisingly, many more people walking on the boardwalk and on the beach than I thought. Leave it to New York: people in the most unlikely of places at the most unlikely of times. No surprise there.

I walked on the deserted boardwalk; past the tattoo parlors, the Nathan’s, Astroland, and the Wonder Wheel. Walking on the beach was lovely, and I sat on the deserted benches and watched the cold Atlantic wax and wane. I thought about the brave swimmers of the Polar Bear Club. This was their kind of day.

The sun was beginning to go down, and the shadows on the fairway were lengthening. I don’t think I would want to be here in full darkness. Those ghosts that I felt barely touching me earlier would be out in full force soon enough, sadly waiting in their melancholy way for the fun to begin again, and for the people to come back.

Now go see: Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 at the Brooklyn Museum thru March 13, 2016.  “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is the first major exhibition to explore the kaleidoscopic visual record they created, documenting the historic destination’s beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, its transformation into a popular beach resort and amusement mecca, its decades of urban decline culminating in the closing of Astroland, and its recent revival as a vibrant and growing community.”

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HM_Coney Island WonderWheelEntrance

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#TBT Brooklyn Museum – Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe [VIDEO]

It went down this spring at the Brooklyn Museum – Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe.

Killer Heels explored fashion’s most provocative accessory. Along with the showcase of heels from the high platform chopines of sixteenth-century Italy to the glamorous stilettos on today’s runways and red carpets; the exhibition also delved into the imaginative. Showcasing shoes created by new 3D technology and inviting contemporary artists to take looks at the high-heeled shoe’s rich and varied history through film added another layer to the already provocative show.

We think it’s a shame that we only shared these videos on our Vine, so we hope you enjoy this look back on one of our favorite shows of 2015 so far.

Rashaad Newsome / Knot

Leanie van der Vyver / Scary Beautiful, 2012

Steven Klein / untitled, 791, 2014

Top 5 Art Shows of 2014

There was no polling of art aficionados, no pouring over magazines or newspaper reviews, and there’s definitely no big ballin’ art plays for likability listed below.  These shows made the list because I visited them more than once (that rarely ever happens) or my sensibilities were totally confounded by the creativity.  Shows that make that kind of impression can provide a year’s worth of conversational tidbits and a measure to which you might hold all others.  Aw, enough with that…these shows rocked my 2014.

Spring Break Art Show

It’s fun, fresh, and daring like newly graduated art school minds before they get crushed and compromised. This curator driven show, gets set up in an old schoolhouse during Armory Arts Week in New York. Yes, we know it’s technically an art fair. But the 2014 show, PublicPrivate won us over with installations that we talked up all-year-long.

Kara Walker: A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby

Kara Walker’s Installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn was a “homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” The exhibit was mind-blowing – from the overwhelmingly beautiful conceptual execution of the sugar-coated sphinx-like woman, to the very unexpected nauseating smell of burnt sugar permeating the hot factory.

A photo posted by @hahamag on

Swoon: Submerged Motherlands

Swoon’s intricate wheat-paste portraits normally grace New York buildings, but for Motherlands she went large-scale, telling landscaped stories against a backdrop of dramatically blue washed walls in the Brooklyn Museum rotunda. The star of the show was the massive sculptural tree that nearly kissed the rotunda’s 72 foot high glass domed ceiling.

David Lynch: The Unified Field

Lynch’s grime aesthetics found solace at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA), where he studied as an advanced painting student in 1967. The exhibit explored Lynch’s hybrid collection of works, displaying a delicate balance from disturbing narratives to richly descriptive lithographs. Unified Field is his world of opposites that he wanders in and out of at will.

Interhaven: The Works of Caitlin McCormack

McCormack’s sorted things in shadowboxes lay posed and gracefully still as if they once knew air – their layers of articulated overlapping crocheted beige string bones resembled the things they never were. The show’s curio layout carried a pleasantly haunting tone, but it was the lingering of McCormack’s stored memories seen through these tangible manifestations of contained dreams and nightmares that left me feeling domed under her bell jars.

*thank you to paperclips215 & Paradigm Gallery for the use of their Instagram Photos